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Reduced Shakespeare Company Review

| Theatre | 22/07/2013

Shakespeare

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts.”

Never have truer words been spoken by Shakespeare and these words are taken to the next level by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, or the RSC (not to be confused with the other RSC – Royal Shakespeare Company; a mistake that can be easily made!). The Reduced Shakespeare Company originated in 1981 and understanding that Shakespeare can be a bit…”dry” for some, their aim was to write short, engaging and physical performances that kept the audience attention and interest. In this they have succeed and since have expanded their repertoire beyond Shakespeare to included abridged versions of just about everything!

Taking my seat at the main house of Leicester Square Theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect, I never thought I would see the day when all of William Shakespeare’s plays would be condensed into 90 minutes, however, the RSC has mostly managed to fulfil that promise in their “Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged – Revised”. Although they didn’t include Shakespeare’s sonnets or poetry, so I’m not sure if we can call it the “complete” works, however, in bravely attempting what they have created, we can let it slide this time.

As a Shakespeare enthusiast, I found the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s performance to be interesting, engaging and amusing throughout most of the 90 minutes. While the action became a bit forced and drawn out towards the end, particularly with the inclusion of audience participation, the first hour of the show was seamless and brilliant. The company’s attention to detail (or lack of it) allowed the audience to garner an interest in Shakespeare and his plays without being bored by the immense detail that are part and parcel of Shakespeare’s plays.

Some criticisms of the show would reflect probably more on the lack of attention paid to certain plays. While Romeo and Juliet is quite a popular play of Shakespeare’s and a great way to open the show, the lack of attention paid to Macbeth was a little concerning. The company’s dismissal of some of the major themes in Macbeth was a little too flippant and a more time could have been given to developing the comedies, which were only given a 10 minute segment where all Shakespeare’s comedies were combined into one Shakespearean mega comedy. This mega comedy made it very difficult for those who weren’t familiar with Shakespeare’s comedies to really understand what the different plays were about (or so my friend who wasn’t familiar with the comedies informed me after).

In faulting the lack of attention given to certain plays of Shakespeare, the performers, Gary Fannin, Matthew Pearson and Matt Rippy could not be faulted. Fannin, was brilliant as the “pre eminent Shakespearean scholar”; Matthew Pearson, excellent as the middle man and Matt Rippy, fantastic as the comic foil. Each played their roles perfectly, balancing each other, with jokes rolling out, one after the other, without feeling contrived or forced.

On a final note, while the RSC’s abridged version of Shakespeare’s plays was incredibly entertaining and had me in stitches for the majority of the show, more needs to be asked about what audience the show is targeting. The theatre on the night was filled with a variety of guests, from families, older patrons and a younger set and all seemed to enjoy the performance. The RSC’s abridged version of Shakespeare’s plays is a great to engage and introduce a younger audience to Shakespeare and hopefully developing in them a further interest in the playwright, however, some of the jokes that were used could be considered a little too…”adult” for the younger audience members. Think of the film Shrek and the jokes about Lord Farquaad and his lack of height if you’re not quite sure what I am on about when I talk about adult jokes; just a little too much innuendo.

All in all, the RSC’s performance of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare is entertaining and enlightening and definitely worthy of a viewing for those who are Shakespeare fans and those who are yet to develop an appreciation.

http://www.reducedshakespeare.com/

By Gigi Tsang – http://canihackit.wordpress.com/

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